CAIRO: Ever since he stepped into the limelight, popular televangelist Amr Khaled has been advocating one main concept; development through faith. After numerous methods and campaigns promoting this idea, one unconventional project is sure to stand out; a reality TV show.
The show “Mujaddidun,” or Modernizers, which started airing in January, brings together 16 contestants, eight men and eight women, aged 20–30 from nine countries around the Arab world.
“The objective is to get young people from all over the Arab world who [dedicate] their time to development and charity in their community,” said Khaled Barakat, managing director of Right Start International Foundation, the show’s producer and project manager.
Aside from its entertainment value, the show is an opportunity for young people to see that others their age are not extremists but are ambitious and are not just waiting around for an opportunity to come their way.
From Egypt come four of the 16 contestants, Khaled Diab, 30, a scriptwriter; Ethar El Katatney, 22, a journalist; Ahmed Sami, 30, an engineer and Hend Galal, 28, a lawyer.
In every episode, contestants are divided into two teams and are presented with an existing problem in the Arab world. Think Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.” Their mission is to come up with a solution in three days, after which they have a board meeting with Khaled who evaluates each team. At the end of each episode, one person is eliminated.
“The missions operate on three levels, which are social service, value and development,” explains Barakat.
For example, building an orphanage falls under development. The mission of making a documentary is something that has an artistic value, and the mission of re-establishing family connections is social service, explained Barakat.
“The key is to think outside the box; identify the potential for new ideas and actually help those people in ways that are not orthodox, not traditional and are [long-term],” said El Katatney.
“Whatever situation you can be put in, you can cope, not everything has to be planned [ahead],” she added.
The winner takes a €100,000 prize; but none of the contestants were in it for the money; the prize was only announced on the first episode, which aired months after they were done shooting.
Diab, who wrote box office hits such as Ahmed Helmy’s “Alf Mabrouk,” was drawn to the idea because of its competitive nature.
“I was attracted to the competition and the idea of a development program with Amr Khaled,” he said.
“It was also a chance to go out and do things that never in my life I expected to do,” he added.
Shooting the show was supposed to take place in Egypt over the course of 40 days. However, missions were extended to countries all over the Arab world, with the contestants spending two weeks in every country.
The intense and hectic schedule served to motivate the contestants.
“This experience made me know that my potential is so much more,” said El Katatney, winner of CNN’s African Journalist of the Year in 2009.
“For instance, I never thought that in one day in Ramadan I would reach four CEOs and have a 30-minute interview with each,” she recalled.
“It [the show] broke in me the barrier of the fear of failure,” said El Katatney, who added that now she can embark on any new project with more confidence.
Even for the first contestant to be eliminated, the experience was still fruitful. “I’ve learned that there are a lot of different areas for community service,” explained Egyptian contestant Galal. “On the personal level, I’ve learned to work under pressure and working with different types of people, whether on my team or during the mission,” she added.
Galal said one of the show’s best advantages was the chance to network. “The show gave me contacts for so many people from different fields which I now use for doing volunteer work,” she explained.
The show was merely a launching pad for some of the contestants. Last weekend the four Egyptian contestants organized a blood donation campaign at the Cancer Institute.
“I find that my role after ‘Mujaddadun’ is much more important; I have to move and do something with the people,” said Diab.
The show has already been signed for seasons two and three, which will include new contestants from different parts of the Arab world and new missions.
“I hope they [the viewers] felt that they themselves can do this, not fixate on us and leave the value of the program,” El Katatney said, adding that the show will help viewers realize their potential by thinking of what they have to offer, as well as help familiarize them with some of the problems in their country.
There are five contestants remaining, these include Diab and El Katatney from Egypt, Zeina Awaydate from Lebanon, Khalid El Nahdi from Yemen and Maali Faqahi from Saudi Arabia.
Watch “Mujaddidun” every Friday at 8 pm Cairo time on Dubai TV.
Mujaddidun’s cast and crew.